Updated: May 15, 2018
Anxiety is indicated by feelings of fear usually as a reaction to a current situation, a worry about future events or as a result of a previously traumatic experience. There are many different kinds of anxiety and people affected often have more than one symptom. We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives – it’s natural when we are faced with a situation that makes us nervous or that we feel is overwhelming – but it’s only when we find it difficult to control our worries that anxiety can adversely affect our day to day lives.
Anxiety can show itself in a myriad of ways, from an overactivity of the mind and obsessive behaviour to nausea and an overwhelming feeling of fear or an impending feeling of dread. The symptoms of anxiety can often be managed very successfully using alternative medicine approaches as part of a dedicated, ongoing treatment plan.
Essential oils are the concentrated extracts from plant roots, leaves or flowers and are a wonderful addition to any holistic tool box. Essential oils must be used with care as they are incredibly potent and should always be diluted in a suitable carrier oil such as almond, coconut or grapeseed oil.
They are used in Aromatherapy as they have many levels to their healing properties. Scents speak directly to our olfactory system, chemoreceptors that form the sense of smell and that communicate with our limbic system which supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour and long-term memory. This is why smells evoke such emotional memories and responses in us. My clinical use of essential oils is to not only surround us with beautiful scents but I choose oils that have specific properties that affect us holistically; our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Depending on your individual experiences of anxiety, a variety of oils can be used that are specific to your own symptoms.
All essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil before application to the skin (1 or 2 drops to 10ml of carrier oil) and diluted in water if vapourising.
Bergamot is the go-to when we are looking for an oil to help with anxiety, depression, SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder), a lack of self-confidence or feeling introverted and want to retreat from the world. It is especially useful during the winter, imparting its sunny nature throughout the year. It is a cheering oil with the ability to instill a sense of optimism on days that seem to be insurmountable, helping to encourage a positive outlook, and that things can change for the better. Bergamot oil can cause photo-toxicity and it should not be applied to skin if you are going out in the sun as it can cause burning.
If you’ll allow me to indulge in a wee bit of horticultural geekery, Geranium oil is not technically geranium – it is extracted from Pelargoniums, commonly known as geraniums, but they are not actually geraniums.
This oil can sometimes encourage strong reactions, both emotionally and physically. It can be sensitising to some, just as the plants are (the Pelargoniums we see indoors and as bedding plants in the summer) and I’ve found people either love it or they don’t. There’s no middle ground with Geranium, which is actually quite contradictory to what Geranium has to offer. It is an uplifting oil that has a floral earthiness and a wonderful balancing effect on the mind, keeping us grounded and able to cope better with the day to day. It helps balance our emotions from a position of inner strength, relieving feelings of stress and anxiety and, working on the adrenal cortex, it has a balancing effect on our hormonal system.
There are very few oils as versatile as dear Lavender – it is a long established favourite and with good reason. Lavender oil has a soothing, calming effect on the nerves helping to relieve tension, panic, hysteria and nervous exhaustion. It’s also beneficial for headaches, migraines and insomnia associated with anxiety. It can also provide mental clarity and confidence, helping to reduce obsessive or compulsive behaviour that can often accompany anxiety. Some people have a sensitivity to Lavender so it's wise to test one drop in 10mls of carrier oir and apply to a small area of skin before considering further use and care should always be taken when using it.
Rosemary oil has quite a marked stimulating action on our brain and central nervous system, increasing the circulation and clearing the mind, encouraging mental awareness, reducing over activity and improving cognitive function, clarifying our thoughts and cutting through mental fog, as well as improving memory. It can be a wonderfully supportive oil first thing in the morning, lifting our spirits and sharpening our senses to encourage us throughout the day. Rosemary should not be used if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure or are living with epilepsy.
Essential oils should always be diluted before use and should never be taken internally.
Please consult a professional Clinical Aromatherapist before using essential oils to manage the symptoms of specific health conditions - if you have any questions, please do get in touch.
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